Rep. Ilhan Omar, the Minnesota Democrat dogged by allegations of anti-Semitism, told Muslims in a speech Saturday to “raise hell” and “make people uncomfortable” in defense of their rights.
As hundreds of pro-Israel protesters rallied outside, Ms. Omar said U.S. Muslims should confront discrimination in her keynote speech at a fundraiser hosted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Greater Los Angeles in Woodland Hills, California.
“So, to me, I say raise hell. Make people uncomfortable,” Ms. Omar said as the crowd cheered. “Because here’s the truth, here’s the truth: Far too long we have lived with the discomfort of being a second-class citizen and frankly I’m tired of it, and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it.”
Ms. Omar, whose speech was livestreamed by Fox News and posted on CAIR’s Facebook page, also intimated that President Trump was to blame in part for the horrific March 15 shooting at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, which left 50 dead.
“The reason I think many of us knew this was going to get worse is we finally have a leader, a world leader in the White House, who publicly says that Islam hates us, who fuels hate against Muslims,” she said.
Her appearance drew a crowd of protesters waving American and Israeli flags, as well as signs with messages like “Omar Equals Hate.” Two banners were unfurled outside the balconies at the Hilton hotel with the messages, “Ilhan Hates Israel” and “CAIR Hates Jews.”
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A smaller group of protesters came out in support of Ms. Omar, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress in 2018.
“There are very fascinating people outside who for so many years have spoken about an Islam that is oppressive, an Islam that lessens and isolates its women, and today they gather outside to protest a Muslim woman who is in Congress,” Ms. Omar said in her speech. “The irony in that is very entertaining to me.”
She added that she and “many of the people in this room can care less about what they have to say because we know who we are and where we belong and what we stand for.”
Ms. Omar has been accused of anti-Semitism statements on several occasions, culminating in an uproar earlier this month over her criticism about those who pledge “allegiance to a foreign country,” in what was condemned as a dual-loyalties slur against Jews who support Israel.
The Democrat-controlled House responded by passing a resolution March 7 that condemned anti-Semitism—as well as anti-Muslim bias—but did not mention Ms. Omar by name.
In her Saturday speech, she alluded to the anti-Semitism controversy, saying, “My choice of a country to talk about is not my preference of a country. It is based on what country is violating basic human rights.”
That includes other nations, she said. “It doesn’t matter if that country is being run by my father, my brother, my sister, I will still criticize that country because I know every country is capable of living up to their best,” she said.
House Democrats have so far resisted calls for Ms. Omar to be removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“Many people expect our community to feel like it needs to hide every time something happens, but repeatedly we have shown them that we are not to be bullied, we are not to be threatened, we are not to be terrorized,” she said in her speech. “We are strong and resilient, and we will always show up to be ourselves, because we know we have a right to a dignified existence and a dignified life.”
• This story was based in part on wire service reports.